Stars Are Coming to Town

La Jolla opens its doors to the world as the 2001 Buick Invitational starts its opening round Thursday at the Torrey Pines Golf Course, just north of UCSD.

The invitational continues through Sunday, when the final round will be held. A purse of $3.5 million is up for grabs as the defending champion Phil Mickelson, a native of San Diego, defends his title.

Other golfers in the 156-player field scheduled to attend include Tiger Woods, Fred Couples, Tom Lehman, Davis Love III, John Daly and Mark O’Meara. All these golfers will battle for the top prize of $630,000.

The first and second rounds begin at 9 a.m. today and tomorrow, respectively, and continue into the weekend. After the second round, the field will be cut down to the 70 players with the lowest scores; weekend rounds begin at 8:30 a.m.

Sponsored by The Century Club and local Buick dealers, the annual tournament normally draws a large crowd. In addition to providing lively golf festivities, the Buick Invitational also raises money for several causes including the UCSD golf program.

Over $4.5 million has been raised for local charities since the tournament moved to Torrey Pines. Other events that are scheduled include a Pro-Am tournament and a junior golf clinic.

The UCSD golf team, which also plays regularly at Torrey Pines, is selling tickets for the event to raise money. They are promoting it as a chance to see Tiger Woods up-close and in action.

Ticket prices for the event are $19 per day for today and Friday, and $25 per day for the weekend. For those who want season badges, tickets are $65 in advance or $75 at the gate. A season badge allows entrance for all four days of the tournament. Children 12 and under, when accompanied by an adult, are allowed admission free of charge. Tickets can be purchased at the gate or through Ticketmaster.

Due to local construction at the Torrey Pines Lodge and traffic congestion around UCSD, using public transportation from campus to Torrey Pines is highly recommended. The golf course’s close proximity to the campus should not be a major problem. General parking for the tournament will be available only at Sea World and the Del Mar Showpark. Shuttles will provide transportation to and from the parking areas.